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Late-night tracfone shopping sprees

By Michelle Malkin  •  August 11, 2006 01:15 PM

Just thought you’d find these news items interesting (hat tip: reader Dave and reader PD):

WNEM TV in Michigan – Three Middle Eastern Men Found With 1000 Cell Phones

Around 1:00am August 11th three men purchased cell phones from the Wal-Mart store on M-81 near the corner of M-24 in Caro. Wal-Mart places a limit on the number of cell phones that can be purchased at once, that number is three. The three men allegedly bought 80 by purchasing them three at time so that an alert wouldn’t be triggered by the cash register. They also paid cash.

An alert clerk grew suspicious and called Tuscola County central dispatch. The Caro Police Department sent a unit and stopped the rented van on M-81 just east of Caro. The suspects were headed towards Bad Axe on M-81 where there is another Super Wal-Mart.

The three men were described as being of Pakistani descent but live in Texas. Police say the three, ages 19, 22, and 23 appear to be naturalized citizens. One man was driving while the other two were in the back opening the phone packages with box cutters throwing the phones in one box, batteries in another and the packaging and phone charger in another container. The suspects had 1000 other cell phones in the van. There was also a bag of receipts showing that someone was in Wisconsin the day before.

The phones were Nokia Tracfones selling for $20 at Wal-Mart. For your twenty dollars you receive a phone charger and 40 minutes of airtime. The phones do not have to be registered with a name. Also discovered was a laptop with store addresses and store logos.

The men have been “cooperative, upfront, not hiding” anything according to police. They also told officers they get stopped frequently and say they buy the phones for $20 and sell them elsewhere for $38. They sell them without the packaging or charger.

The Caro Police Department, the FBI and the Homeland Security Terrorism Taskforce are involved in the case.

The Caro Police Department is holding the suspects property while awaiting arrival of the FBI. FBI wants to talk to the three men who are not in custody.

And this via WTAE-TV:

Foreigner Found With Prepaids, Cash In Murrysville Is Held By Feds

A man from the Republic of Georgia is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison after he and another man from that country were found with 15 prepaid cell phones and $4,200 in cash, police said.

The Tribune-Review reported that Malkhaz Zakutashvili, 53, was held through the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Murrysville police said the federal agency told police not to hold the second man, Zurabi Maisuradze, 25.

Police said the men were questioned just before 8 p.m. Saturday because their van, which did not have a permanent registration plate, was stopped in a lane of traffic in the Franklin Plaza parking lot.

The men said they were immigrants, but each displayed Michigan driver’s licenses, police said.

Zakutashvili told police he was in the country illegally, Tappe said. Maisuradze claimed to have a visa, but he said he had forgotten to bring it with him.

The prepaid cell phones, which the men had recently purchased in Monroeville and Murrysville, were found inside the van. Also in the van were a laptop computer and global-positioning software.

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